Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Where does stored nuclear waste go?

29.11.2007
Researchers uncover complex pathways for waste’s journey from the Hanaford Site to the Columbia River

Millions of gallons of hazardous waste resulting from the nation’s nuclear weapons program lie in a remote location in southeastern Washington state called Hanford. Beneath this desert landscape about two million curies of radioactivity and hundreds of thousands of tons of chemicals are captured within the stratified vadose zone below which gives rise to complex subsurface flow paths.

These paths create uncertainties about where the contaminants go and what happens to them. With the mighty Columbia River bordering much of the site, where these nuclear wastes migrate, their composition and how fast they are traveling are of vital importance to both people and the environment.

The November issue of Vadose Zone Journal features a series of papers addressing the mysteries within the vadose zone beneath Hanford. The series outlines scientific work funded by the Department of Energy and carried out by scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and contributing associates with other national laboratories, universities and contractors.

The detailed series outlines how researchers have investigated Hanford’s vadose zone to better understand the migration of these contaminants, ultimately reducing or stemming their flow toward the Columbia River, thereby protecting the river and the people living downstream. By studying the geologic, biologic, geochemical and hydrologic conditions at the Hanford site, the researchers seek to understand and manipulate the factors that control contaminants’ fate and transport.

To date, studies show that fine-grained sediment layers along with rain, snowfall and other climatic conditions affect contaminant transport. For three decades, scientists have studied what happens when water enters and exits the soil, particularly how it affects the movement of the contaminants under various conditions.

“Understanding how hydrology and chemistry are interacting below the land surface in the vadose zone and the factors that control those interactions are keys to ultimately dealing with the legacy from nuclear waste production at the Hanford site,” said Glendon Gee, Laboratory Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Gee is lead author on the overview paper of the series.

Chemical studies indicate that a number of contaminants, such as cesium, react strongly with Hanford sediments and move only under extreme conditions. Researchers found that another contaminant, uranium, reacts with the sediments in complex ways and its migration varies under different conditions. Other contaminants, such as tritium and nitrate, are relatively mobile. These contaminants have been transported deep into the vadose zone and reached the groundwater. Carbon tetrachloride and other organic compounds have moved in complex ways, as both vapor and liquid, and reached the groundwater.

Additional studies of the fate and transport of contaminants in the vadose zone are ongoing at the Hanford Site. These studies will characterize the extent of contaminant plumes, determine how fast or slow they are migrating and evaluate remediation solutions.

Sara Uttech | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.soils.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

nachricht How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>